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Population – At the time of the 2011 YouGov census, the population of Oxfordshire was 651,761.
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The first Celtic tribes arrived in the area of Oxfordshire around 5,000BC. Prior to this there is evidence of Mesolithic and Neolithic settlements but the county was very sparsely inhabited. The Roman’s weren’t overly impressed and few Roman sites have been uncovered. It was the arrival of the Saxons that created more widespread communities who overran the aboriginal Celtic tribes. But they didn’t have it all their own way, the Kingdom of Mercia rubbed a northerly shoulder with Danelaw, the area controlled by the invading Vikings who were happily setting up home in their newly claimed lands that stretched from the Tyne and Humber to the Mersey.
Things soon came to blows as the Vikings looked to expand their territory southwards. While from the south, the Kingdom of Wessex also had designs on Mercia and indeed at one point the whole region was under the control of Winchester. The Vikings cut up ugly around 1010, the Great Army sacked Oxford and took control of the county. King Canute eventually took the throne but he certainly wasn’t the last king to disturb the peace.
After William the Conqueror nabbed the English crown, Oxfordshire once again was ruled from Winchester where Odo, William’s half-brother was Bishop and the second most powerful man in England.
In the 1600’s King Charles I left London having fallen out with Parliament and declared Oxford his new capital. Oliver Cromwell and his army followed hot on the King’s rather unpopular heals and Oxfrordshire became the epicentre of the English Civil War which raged from 1642 – 1651. The Parlimentarian Army also made Oxfordshire their new base to oppose the falling king. Abingdon, Banbury, Cropedy Bridge, Chalgrove, the battles came thick and fast with the various towns often changing hands (and the townsfolk usually blamed for the town having being occupied in the first place!).
During the 1700s, with the monarchy restored, things remained relatively peaceful for the county. There was some trouble during the industrial revolution when hungry agricultural workers rioted and attacked new fangled farm machinery in protest at the loss of jobs, poor wages and lack of rights, but these were soon quashed by the sometimes heavy handed forces of law and order. Even in WWII, despite the many airfields operating in the county, Oxfordshire suffered much less than other English counties. It’s believed this is in part due to Hitler wanting to make Oxford his new capital of England once he had successfully invaded.
Today the rolling hills and stunning areas such as the Cotswolds and Chiltern Hills make Oxfordshire one of the most desirable places to live in the UK. House prices are well above the national average and the county attracts famous names and celebrity house hunters along with huge numbers of tourists, especially to Oxford, famous for its university, spires, writers and historic city centre. The county (and in particular Oxford) are also rather photogenic attracting Hollywood and it the towns, villages and rolling hills can be seen in a number of blockbusters and TV shows. But at least there are no more kings causing scraps!
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